Things To Do in Barnes, Battersea, Cheam, Clapham, Epsom, Fulham, Kingston, Putney, Surbiton, Sutton, Wandsworth, Wimbledon

Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley

Foodie sisters Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley came to our screens with their gourmet approach to eating well. They have several cookbooks to their name, and a cafe in Selfridges. We caught up with them to talk about growing up in Kingston, and the local places they love...

So, tell us about your experience of growing up in the local area...
Jasmine: We spent most of our early years in Kingston but I also lived in Germany as a baby and early teens. When our dad retired from the army we moved to Surbiton and settled in 1994. Growing up I spent a lot of time in Surbiton library being a bookworm (no mobiles, laptops and wifi back then!) and cooked my first grown-up recipe from a huge Cranks cookbook. I now appreciate how brilliant Surbiton is - it’s green and leafy, right on the river, near enough to the calm of the countryside and only 15 minutes into Waterloo and the buzz of London life.

What were your school days like?
Jasmine: A lesson in socialising! I went to four primary schools in the Kingston area as well as three secondary schools (two in Germany) because we moved around so much. When we moved back from Germany in my teens I went to Tiffin, followed by an Art Foundation course at Kingston University, then did my first year of Furniture and Product Design in Leeds before deciding that Kingston was definitely where it was at and headed straight back.

Melissa: In the area, I went to Surbiton High School (where I loved being on the netball team and being head girl!) then I went to Tiffin Girls for sixth form to study science and maths A-levels.

What are your first foodie memories?
Melissa: When I was little, sitting next to my mum on the living room floor as she peeled prawns, dipped them in vinegar and fed them to me as if I was a baby bird!

Jasmine: A soft-boiled egg in a little egg cup that had legs on it. I have a really vivid memory of watching TV shows on a Saturday morning and saying ‘beep beep’ to mum every time I wanted her to feed me a spoonful!

Where do you live now?
Melissa: I live in Leytonstone, which has one of the best Thai restaurants in London (Singburi) as well as incredible local, family-run places like the Italian Mora. I live a stone’s throw from a park and have great neighbours who have their own bees and we help each other out on our allotments, walking each other’s dogs and popping in and out of each other’s gardens for BBQs.

Jasmine: I’ve been living in Elephant & Castle for ten years. My boyfriend Nick and I were living in Surbiton before that but decided to give London one more bash before retiring to leafier suburbs. We knew we were spoilt with convenient Surbiton rail links (I’ve also lived in Hackney before and it’s quicker getting into town in rush hour from Surbiton than Bethnal Green station!) and ‘The Elephant’ was affordable with incredible links. It’s a hub of creativity and I live opposite artists’ yards.

I believe you still hang out around here quite a lot?
Melissa: I’m back in Kingston often seeing Mum and many of my friends live in Kingston, Putney and Richmond way. I was also living back at Mum’s for six months writing my new book while my boyfriend and I renovated a Victorian wreck in Leytonstone. It was great fun coming up with recipes based on what was on offer at the lovely monthly market in Surbiton.

Jasmine: I’m there at least a few times a month. Nick and I love going down to the French Tarte on Maple Road on the weekends and I had my first fine dining experience at The French Table next door many years ago. We’ve also been National Trust members for about 12 years and there’s loads going on in and around the Surrey area. I’ve still got lots of childhood friends in the area (think of all those schools I went to!) and when I fly in and out of Heathrow or Gatwick, it’s always a good idea to crash at Mum’s and catch up, and pick up our three dogs which she kindly looks after when we travel.

Where do you go out locally?
Melissa: Rose Theatre is amazing, I like a walk along the river before a night at the theatre. Petersham Nurseries is one of my fave restaurants and I love that I can take my dog Nelly too.

Jasmine: I’ve been going to Petersham Nurseries since my teens and love the dining events with guest speakers, and of course when it comes to picnicking, nothing beats Richmond Park.

What would be your desert island dish?
Melissa: I’d probably go for a curry with our signature cauliflower rice. Filling, satisfying and delicious! Maybe with a tangy, crunchy slaw on the side too.

Jasmine: I love a hot pud so probably sticky toffee pudding with cream. We’ve got a recipe in our book The Art Of Eating Well which has become a bit of an H+H classic. It’s a simple, wholefood recipe that is grain and gluten free and the sauce is made from dates and good ol’ butter - even our most traditional friends love it.” 

Melissa will be appearing at the Hampton Court Food Festival on Saturday 25 August

©Nick Hopper©Nick Hopper